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Have you ever had the experience of sleeping in someone else’s bed, perhaps a friend's or family member’s, and waking up with all sorts of new aches and pains? Meanwhile, they sleep just fine in that same bed.
This is because different body types respond differently to various mattresses. A heavier person, for example, will probably do better with a firmer mattress. Meanwhile, a lighter person might do well with a plush mattress.
Below, we’ll get into what exactly a plush mattress is, how it compares to other mattress types, who it will best serve, and more useful information about this type of bed.
What Is a Plush Mattress?
A plush mattress is a mattress with a softer or more cushiony comfort layer. At Sleep Advisor, we consider a plush mattress to be anything rated below a 5 on our firmness scale. A plush mattress with a firmness rating below 4 will provide little to no support, which is why we only rate soft mattresses in the 4-5 range.
Softer mattresses tend to cradle the body more and can feel extremely comfortable and cloud-like – for certain people. For others, these mattresses aren’t firm enough and provide little support.
How soft a bed feels depends on the individual sleeper, and therefore, it’s important to find a firmness for your particular body type and sleep style.
The Importance and Comparison of Firmness Levels
Plush vs. Firm
When we discuss mattress firmness we’re talking about how soft or firm the bed feels when you lie on top of it. If you think of mattress firmness on a scale from 1-10, plush mattresses would fall between 1 and 5, whereas firm mattresses would fall between 7 and 10.
A plush mattress will feel softer than a firm mattress, but it’s important to note that firmness is subjective, meaning two sleepers can experience the same mattress differently. For example, a lighter person might lie on a mattress and experience it as firmer than a heavier person would, because of how much each person would sink into the mattress.
Generally, plush mattresses are better for lighter-weight sleepers, whereas firmer mattresses are better for heavier sleepers.
Learn More: Firm vs Soft Mattress
Plush vs. Medium
On that same scale from 1-10 where a plush mattress is between a 1 and 5, a medium mattress would be a 5 or a 6. Medium mattresses usually accommodate the most sleep positions, heavier side sleepers, and lighter individuals who want something firmer. You’ll find that the majority of mattresses come in a medium or medium-firm feel.
In general, most people prefer a medium support mattress (rather than plush or firm). However, even if you are somebody who prefers a plush mattress, you’ll want to make sure that it still supports your spine. Soft doesn’t necessarily mean that it is not supportive.
Firmness vs. Support
Firmness ratings and support are not the same. Whereas support is the measure of how well a mattress is able to keep your spine in a neutral alignment, firmness is how soft or firm the bed feels when you lie on it. Firmness can affect how supportive the bed is. For example, a firmer-feeling mattress might help in supporting your spine. However, it’s not always the case. For somebody who weighs less, a plush mattress might be just as supportive as a firmer one and feel more comfortable for them.
When shopping for a mattress, it’s important to keep the distinction of firmness vs. support in mind and make sure you are making your decision based on both of these categories.
Who Should Use a Plush Mattress?
Plush mattresses are great for people who typically sleep on their sides – especially those who are lighter. This is because a softer bed allows side sleepers to rest the majority of their body weight on a slimmer surface area and still get good spinal support and pressure relief.
For those back sleepers who are under about 130 pounds, plush mattresses could also be a good option. This is because these mattresses tend to contour to the body well, and for those who are lighter weight and not sinking too far into the mattress, this can still keep them supported. However, most people who sleep on their backs will find more support in a medium or firm mattress.
Read More: Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers
Sleepers with Shoulder, Hip, or Back Pain
For those of you who live with back pain, you know better than most how much your mattress impacts your daily life. If you’re sleeping on a mattress that is too soft, you could be exacerbating your back pain because there’s not enough support to keep your body in a healthy alignment. So while plush mattresses might work well for lighter-weight sleepers and support their spinal alignment, for most people – especially those with back pain – a firmer mattress is recommended.
Shoulder and hip pain, however, are a different story. Plush mattresses may actually help shoulder and hip pain, because the soft mattress surface will be more conforming to your body, fostering pressure relief. This is especially true for those who sleep on their sides, which on a too-firm mattress, will make hip and shoulder pain worse.
Lots of memory foam mattresses fall on the softer or more plush side of the scale when it comes to firmness. This is because memory foam itself is a contouring and squishy material. This can be great for couples sharing a bed because memory foam is one of the best materials for eliminating motion transfer. In other words, when your partner moves or gets out of bed at night, you shouldn’t be disturbed by mattress movement.
Find our top picks for the best mattresses for couples.
Petite sleepers, as in those weighing about 130 pounds or less, should find plush mattresses more comfortable. This is because the mattress will conform to their body without sagging too much. Keep in mind that the more you weigh, the more you’ll sink into a soft bed, which can impact spinal support.
Comparison with Other Soft Mattress Types
Plush vs. Ultra-Plush
Ultra-plush mattresses are those that fall on the firmness scale around a 1 or a 2. These mattresses are extremely soft, and we don’t recommend them. In fact, we have not tested mattresses in this range because they offer so little back support.
Going with a mattress closer to a 4 or 5 on the firmness scale will still feel soft but will provide you with much-needed support.
Plush vs. Pillow Top
A pillow top bed is one with a soft comfort layer, usually about an inch thick, on top of an innerspring or hybrid mattress. This soft, top comfort layer is usually made of cotton, wool, or down for added softness and is usually attached to the mattress itself, though some are sold separately.
“Plush mattresses” is a term used to describe the mattress’s firmness as a whole, while “pillow top” refers to the topmost, comfort layer of the mattress.
Plush vs. Euro Top
A Euro-top mattress is a specific type of pillow top. Both terms, Euro top and pillow top, refer to the soft materials stitched to the cover of an innerspring or hybrid mattress. The only difference is a Euro top is underneath the mattress’s cover and often uses firmer materials like foam or fiber, whereas a pillow top can be seen as sewn onto the mattress or sold separately. “Euro top mattress” can be used to describe a bed with a Euro top, though many of these beds have a softer overall feel and could also be under the plush mattress umbrella.
Consider a luxury mattress, or, if you sleep best while on vacation, explore our top picks for the best hotel mattresses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a plush mattress good for your back?
When you sleep on your back, your weight is more evenly distributed than when you sleep on your side. This means that any mattress type, including a plush mattress, could work well for you, especially if you are on the petite side. However, most people who sleep on their backs or who have back issues will do better with a medium or firm mattress.
Can I make a plush mattress firmer?
If you already have a plush mattress and you want to make it firmer, you might try buying a firm mattress topper made from latex, memory foam, or polyfoam. You can also try placing a piece of plywood between the mattress and the bed frame or box spring, or flipping your mattress over (if it is flippable.)
How long do plush mattresses last?
Some mattress types last longer than others, but this typically depends more on the type of mattress you have (latex, hybrid, innerspring, memory foam) rather than its firmness. Generally speaking, though, a plush mattress should last you anywhere from 7 to 10 years. You can extend the lifespan of a bed by rotating it, using a mattress protector, washing your bed sheets regularly, and not jumping on it.
For More Information: How Long Do Mattresses Last?
Can I flip a plush mattress?
The short answer is that it depends on the mattress. If you are able to flip the mattress, it will be specifically marked as a flippable or a double-sided mattress. However, many modern plush mattresses are made of memory foam, latex, or hybrid materials and aren’t flippable because of their specific upright structure.
If your plush mattress doesn’t indicate that it can be flipped, you can still rotate it every 3-6 months.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.